In every major city I’ve been to in the last few years, I find myself joining a walking tour hosted by a local guide. I’ve found it helps me get away from the tourist traps, see the city with a local, and make some acquaintances along the way.
My most recent walking tour was Urban Adventures’ Tenements, Tales & Tastes, around New York’s Lower East Side. The tour focuses on the history of migration to New York City and how different groups cycled through the area as the city’s poor, before establishing themselves and in turn making their impact. The tour also uses the best teaching aid possible – food.
We learned about the Dutch East India Company colonizing the city of ‘New Amsterdam’ with a Dutch waffle. We stood at ‘Five Points’, the site of New York City’s infamous 19th century slum, before learning about Chinese immigration in a small fried dumpling store. We moved through Little Italy and tried some cheese in America’s oldest cheese shop. I tried my first knish while learning about how the Jewish community championed worker rights. We finished off with a German pretzel as we realized that hot dogs, beer (think Budweiser), hamburgers and other American staples were the tasty result of German immigration.
Guiding us through this food map of history was our tour guide, Joe. Joe was a fantastic resource who made you felt comfortable asking off-the-script questions not only about the tour, but New York life in general. He also altered the tour to suit the group after seeing our interests, adding a stop at a local candy store and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
One thing that struck me the most about the tour was how well the group got along. The tour officially concluded at a bar, but the group continued to hang around chatting. When it was time to leave to make it in time for a show, I was disappointed to say good-bye. We hugged our new friends wishing them luck for their future weddings/travels/jobs.
This was my first time in New York City and the day before was spent dragging my bag around Times Square and getting lost on the subway. The appeal of this city was getting a little lost on me. Exploring the city’s neighbourhoods, learning the history outside of a museum, and eating some amazing food switched my opinion.
If yourself or your client is looking for something a little different from New York’s typical attractions, Urban Adventures should definitely be considered.
Currently they offer three tours in NYC with Tenements, Tales & Tastes, Brewed in Brooklyn and the Williamsburg Craft Beer Crawl. They also offer private tours and Joe mentioned they are working on a Speakeasy tour they hope to reveal soon.
For Urban Adventures New York City, go to urbanadventures.com/destination/new-york-tours.
I can also recommend doing an Urban Adventures tour locally, you can see the highlights from the Kensington Market tour on our YouTube channel:
For more information on Urban Adventures, go to urbanadventures.com.
For agent information, go to urbanadventures.com/agents.